Where Two or Three are Gathered #CopingWithCOVID19
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20
My ward resumed sacrament meeting two Sundays ago. We’re currently meeting twice per month, on the second and third Sundays. Attendance is capped at 99, but there are few enough people attending that no one is turned away and we haven’t had to divide the services. The meeting, with the exception of the administration of the sacrament, is livestreamed for people who can’t or don’t wish to attend in person, and home administration of the sacrament is still authorized.
Since I’m single, female, and do not live with other church members, the cancellation of church services was very challenging for me. I sometimes went weeks without being able to take the sacrament, until the father of one of the kids in my primary class became aware of my plight and took it upon himself to bring me the sacrament. So when I found out that I would be able to attend church again, I was overjoyed.
The email that the bishop sent out indicated that “face coverings” are required. I appreciated the inclusiveness, since I have a disability that prevents the wearing of a cloth mask. On doctor’s orders, I wear a plastic face shield instead, and I was relieved that no one would be turning me away at the door.
When I arrived at the chapel, I was warmly welcomed. I went to find a seat, and that’s where the first bit of weirdness started. Before the pandemic, there was a pew on the left side of the chapel, about halfway back, that we jokingly called the “Beyoncé Bench” because it’s where all the single ladies sit. With the new rules, only people who live in the same household are permitted to sit together, and someone else was already on that bench. So I took a seat in the back corner of the last center pew and watched the smiling happy families around me. I felt alone and isolated, but at least I was at church.
The meeting began. There was piano prelude but no congregational singing. After the non-singing opening hymn, there was the opening prayer, and then we did ward business. I generally find ward business to be a bit dull, but being back at church was such a rare treat that I enjoyed it. Yes, I do sustain these ward members in their new callings, even if I don’t know them because I haven’t seen anyone in 6 months and we’ve had a dozen move-ins.
In order to accommodate the video stream, the order of the meeting was changed up a bit. Instead of administering the sacrament, we had a special musical number – a cello duet. Then the bishop gave a talk. He spoke about hope. I don’t remember much of what he said, but I remember the joy and relief at being allowed to gather in communal worship again. More than two or three were gathered in the name of Jesus, and Jesus was in our midst.
After the bishop’s talk, the video feed was cut and the sacrament was administered. I really like having the sacrament last. It made it feel more central and momentous. I attended a Catholic university, so on occasion I visited mass. I liked that everything in mass led up to communion at the end, making it clear what the main event was. By having the sacrament administered at the end of sacrament meeting, everything likewise built up to the crowning piece of the service – the memorialization of the Atonement.
The bread was in cups. We were spaced every other pew, so the deacons walked down the empty pews to give the sacrament to each congregant. No one but the deacon touched the tray. Rather than dispose of our used cups in the trays, there were paper bags at the end of each pew for us to put our cups in. After the meeting, we took our bags and put them in a trash can in the foyer.
There was a closing song, once again without singing, and then a closing prayer. The meeting took about 40 minutes total.
There was nothing particularly special about the meeting, but at the same time, everything was special about it. The Sabbath was truly a holy day that day.
The next Sunday, I arrived early and sat in my usual pew. Although I was alone instead of with friends, it felt comforting to sit somewhere familiar. And instead of piano prelude, we listened to a pre-recorded choral number, so even though we weren’t singing, I got to hear communal singing nonetheless. Stake conference online this week, general conference online next week, and then back to sacrament meeting, almost, but not quite normal.
I look forward to when I can sit with friends, sing, and see people’s faces. But until then, I’ll relish in the fact that at least I can go to church. I’ll never take it for granted again.